Live, in-person events are back! Must admit, I have a love/hate relationship with them. On one hand, events are great for meeting customers (and your remote colleagues!!) in person, hosting specialized field opportunities, and closing deals. On the other hand, no one besides an event professional actually knows how much work goes into each one, which is how it should be.
Those responsible for these events –– large or small-scale –– know what I’m talking about. When your executives, sales, partners, and customer teams have no idea about making one activity a success, it speaks even more.
I just planned and worked on a few large conferences –– the first ones in North America since we shut down in 2020! Have to say, things have changed: from on-site logistics to staffing to providing the best experience for all involved.
Getting this right takes patience. There will be travel and logistical issues, long wait times for booth set-up, as well as your internal teams expecting you to plan after-show outings –– everything from Uber coordination to dinner reservations. Your job is to keep everyone calm, which starts with you staying cool and collected. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.
Event attendance is continuing to rise. Is it at pre-pandemic levels yet? I can’t say. That depends on the show and your industry; the same can be said about who is attending and what field events you host. When evaluating shows, keep goals in mind. What do you want to accomplish?
For instance, a booth I planned for a large architectural show in Chicago, AIA ‘22, was constantly busy. Almost 20,000 attendees were expected; however, we do not know the exact numbers. We also hosted a special Customer Advisory Board meeting for senior execs before the larger event started, accomplishing both customer advocacy as well as brand awareness in multiple activities.
A week before, we were at another event in Los Angeles, DIgital Built Week, with only 200 attendees. Booth traffic was minimal, but the audience was senior-level executives spending $2,000 on an event ticket. The networking reception I planned for the first night has 100 people, meeting my push goal that I didn’t think possible.
I don’t want to bore you with what you already know, so here are some things that were eye-opening when returning to large events:
Your months of planning can come crashing down if a team member comes down with COVID before or during your event –– especially if you’re going from one event to the other. Make sure your team feels comfortable prior to traveling, and work to keep those at the booth from burning out with a booth schedule allowing for breaks and meals.
I know, it seems obvious but it’s been a while since we have seen people outside of a video call. At least have a template so you can order some for a team member on the spot.
Some attendees want QR Codes and no traditional paper marketing materials; however the majority still do want something and if you’re spending the money, that printed piece should show your unique value proposition in a way that only you can –– aka stop letting competitors tell your story.
Honestly, I’d put the money into an experience such as offering coffee and flavored water in your booth or sponsoring a wine, popcorn, ice cream, or cappuccino station. Still want to give something away? Make it useful. I grabbed some hand sanitizer from a booth since I forgot mine. Other than that, notepads and pens are always useful. If you’re going more creative, fun, creative stickers or a large giveaway always do the trick!
If you are working with a third-party event management company, make sure you have your on-site contact’s contact information. If you don’t, you will have to run around convincing laborers to help you (which I’m not against if it’s needed to get the job done).
Whether you’re packing or making a list in route, you should include the following items, just in case:
Briefing internal attendees on all they need to know prior to the event, taking charge at the booth, and skilled follow-up are all still in any event planner’s strategy.
Have a post-event meeting scheduled — and ask for the good, bad, and ugly that will only make your events even better. I love when the smallest issues come up; it shows I did my job well. And don’t let up on the sales team, checking in on their follow-up and deals closed weekly.
Finally, show off your success and thank everyone involved! Provide some preliminary numbers like leads, meetings booked, and deals closed. Events are most likely the first touch in the sales journey, so be a stickler for campaign tracking and marketing attribution.
Whether it’s contracts, plans, and strategy; booth design and marketing materials; or staffing and on-site execution, we understand how much work is involved in events.
Getting it done perfectly is easy with us.
Let’s chat about it. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.